Thursday, May 02, 2019

The Ontology of Literary Criticism

The poem comes before the commentary. The poem is first not only temporally. It is not a pre-text, an occasion for subsequent exegetic or metamorphic treatment. Its priority is one of essence, of ontological need and self-sufficiency. Even the greatest critique or commentary, be it that of a writer or painter or composer on his own work, is accidental (the cardinal Aristotelian distinction). It is dependent, secondary, contingent. The poem embodies and bodies forth through a singular enactment its own raison d’étre. The secondary text does not contain an imperative of being. Again the Aristotelian and Thomist differentiations between essence and accident are clarifying. The poem is; the commentary signifies.—George Steiner, No Passion Spent, page 32

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